Higher Education

South Korea has some of the highest education rates out of all the nations in the developed world; however, the distortion in their public higher education system has created a massive trap in unemployment for many young South Koreans straight out of college. Over the past three years, the South Korean government has made vital reforms to extend and deepen its teachings in higher education. This way, university students can reap all the benefits of their education, attaining financial and mental stability.

The Moon Administration

South Korea’s occupational and economic market is ruled with an iron fist by families and partners of chaebol — gigantic oliguric companies and corporations who use complete nepotistic bias when employing young South Koreans, holding grotesque control over both financial and political sectors of their society. In May of 2017, President Moon Jae-in was elected into power. He promised South Koreans that the corruption the chaebol had caused in their society was to be renounced, diminished and abandoned, leading the way for South Korea to be more equal and equitable in employment and social politics.

Moon knew the most effective way to bring a major change in the job market was to make adjustments to the higher education system to decrease favoritism and competition between universities and employers. One form of action Moon pushed was “blind hiring,” or limiting the amount of information employers could request concerning an individual’s university ranking and GPA in their initial application. This would decrease the amount of profiling and preference which has been rooted in the South Korean occupational world.

SKY Universities

More than 80% of higher education institutions in South Korea are privately owned and have rigorous admissions, requiring students to pass a test that most individuals can pass only with a professional tutor or prior private specialty science and mathematics schooling. The three most prestigious universities in South Korea, known as SKY, are Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University. These schools are the only noted educational institutions for chaebol employers. This makes it extremely difficult for individuals from low-income homes to ever attain such professions because they don’t have the funds for a private tutor or prior elite schooling to be admitted to a SKY university.

In attempts to have a more socioeconomic diverse population of students at SKY universities, in 2018, the Moon administration ordered the SKY universities to make their admissions testing far less extensive and detailed to increase the number of applicants who would be able to pass the entry exam. The current government administration also put limitations on the number of students the SKY universities could accept so that more public universities in South Korea could build their reputations on the job market. Both of the SKY initiatives placed by Moon were very innovative in disassembling the distorted educational promises of South Korean society.

Elimination of Elite Education

The Moon administration has aimed to eliminate all elite high schools to equalize the kind of education that young South Koreans are receiving, creating a more fair college admissions process by 2025. Thirteen universities in Seoul that had more than 25% of students from elite secondary schools were evaluated to examine their admissions systems level of integrity by being impartial when admitting students.

How Education Will Repair the Job Market

President Moon has made a tremendous effort by being the first political leader to go against the ancient, corrupt societal standards in employment and hiring practices. By placing more regulations on the educational private sector, both the political and social sectors will begin to be dismantled as well, creating even more building blocks for young South Koreans to move up the socioeconomic ladder. With the inequality of private educational institutions becoming more publicized through governmental action, a more secure and bright future is developing for the classist poverty trap of South Korea.

– Nicolettea Rose Daskaloudi
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in South KoreaHuman rights in South Korea have been in a delicate and difficult position ever since the country declared independence in 1950. While it is undeniable that South Korea has made tremendous strides toward improved human rights since then, there is still has a long way to go.

Only recently did South Korea return to democracy after its military dictatorship of the 60s and 70s and the end of martial law in 1982. The government still retained immense power to prevent dissent. In 1986, laws were changed to allow the direct election of the president, and in 1988, the first free parliamentary elections were held.

Since then, the country has retained its democratic running through times of crisis, one of which occurred only last year when South Korean president Park Geun-Hye, a member of the conservative Saenuri party, was impeached and replaced by Moon Jae-in, a moderate left-leaning candidate who promised to intervene in the North Korean crisis through diplomacy.

The peaceful way in which Park Geun-Hye was impeached and replaced bodes well for future progress in the country, according to the Human Rights Watch, as long as Moon Jae-in firmly commits to improving human rights in South Korea. The biggest threat to human rights continues to be the National Security Law, which allows the government to place people under arrest for vaguely defined “anti-state” activities, such as speaking out in the press or protesting. This is far from the only issue. South Korea also has much room for improvement in the areas of labor rights, discrimination against women and LGBT minorities and addressing North Korea’s many human rights violations.

As of 2017, free speech is still criminalized, trade union leaders are routinely harassed as they attempt to attain better workers’ rights, LGBT discrimination thrives in the military and at home, draconian abortion laws threaten the lives of women and North Korea’s flagrant human rights violations continue relatively unchecked.

At the end of March 2017, the Human Rights Watch formally submitted a memo on human rights in South Korea to the U.N. with the aim of human rights being a main focus of the country’s Universal Periodic Review in November 2017. In 2018, South Korea is hosting the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, which could serve as another opportunity to assess the country’s progress, or lack thereof, with human rights.

Until then, it will be mainly up to Moon Jae-in to determine how quickly and how seriously human rights can be improved in South Korea, and whether the country, after having recently overcome a brutal military dictatorship, can also overcome their human rights record as well.

Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Flickr